I have been on my own, working for myself for almost 15 years now. With the exception of a few contract jobs here and there my office has been the guest or bonus room in whatever house or apartment I lived in at the time. I always had that space dedicated to my work but it has always been a commute of roughly 10 steps from my bedroom to get to work. Working from home is hard (for me at least). It is really easy to get distracted by any number of house errands, laundry, the Xbox - though I have been pretty good at abstaining from gaming while working. In the last few years though the hardest part has been never getting to come home from work. Having that separation. It’s so easy to just walk back in the office and “knock out a 5 minute thing.” Three hours later my evening is gone, it's time for bed and then I start the grind all over again.
Another wrinkle for me was my screen printing endeavors. I have a small shop in a storage facility about 20 to 25 minutes from my house. Anytime I wanted to get a good day of printing in, I had to effectively take the day off from client work so there was always this massive productivity shift each time I wanted to print. Additionally, if I had an idea that I wanted to see through from concept to print I would have to wait until the next block of time I could get to the shop which could be a week or two depending on my schedule. And the reverse would happen too. I would be at the shop and need something from the office, or I would forget to crack open the laptop and let my Dropbox update so I would have my files at the ready. There was too much of a disconnect. It was time to get it all happening in one spot.
Over the past year or so I would put out inquiries to commercial agents and comb through Craigslist. But it was tough to find a spot that was just right for both my design office and my screen print shop. Too big, too small, no heat or air, no access to water and drainage, too expensive. Usually a combination of a few of those. One other thing I set my mind on, if I was going to do this, I wanted a space I could truly make my own. A space that inspired me to do great work. Bluntly, a space I could walk into and say “Fucking cool.”
I had centered my search around the downtown Raleigh area. I know the area well and have a lot of great relationships built through my work with AIGA Raleigh as the Director of Uniting People. After a few failed meetings with some agents I put things on the backburner for awhile. Let the universe hit the reset button for me and start fresh. Raleigh is an amazing city. It is on it’s way up in the world and becoming a destination for creative business and thinking. And all that comes at a cost. If there was a space available the cost was more than I was comfortable spending or was a very drab corporate/office setting. What I wanted was a big open box that I could fill with awesomeness. Something that had character or at least the potential to inject with character. Someplace that was still brimming with creative energy but that the entire world didn’t know about yet.
Throughout the search when I would poke around Craigslist for “Artist Studio” or “Warehouse Space” one listing would always come up that on the surface looked perfect. It was bigger than I wanted, a bit more than I wanted to spend and in an area I wasn’t crazy about commuting to. I kept seeing the ad and skimming past it for months. Then one evening I was talking to my fiancee and I said “You watch, if I decide to contact this property it will be perfect in every way. It will have everything I need. Even though it is in an area I know very little about, with a longer commute, costs more money and is bigger than I had imagined needing. With her never-ending wisdom she said “Email them. That doesn’t cost a dime.” In short, I did. It was indeed, perfect.
Durham, North Carolina. A city bursting with history and character that for a long time had a negative rap sheet against it as being dirty, and unsafe. And that preconceived notion is what really stopped me from wanting to even look out there. But once I opened my eyes and saw what had been done in the city over the past 10 years and the restoration that was coming down the pike I got excited real fast. Many of my AIGA Raleigh family lived out there and loved it. An added bonus of being able to bring AIGA Raleigh to the Durham area - now that we would have a home base and people on the ground, let me know that it was the right move to make. It was go time.
On August 8, 2014 I signed a lease for a 1750 sq. ft. warehouse space, fully conditioned. A space the owners had no hesitation (they are even excited) to let me make my own. I would be able to take hold of the space starting December 1 of 2014 which gave me several months to put plans in place of turning this space into something special. This huge space. What the hell am I going to do with all this space?! Go big or go home. Or as I like to say...
If you want to play with the big dogs you can't pee like a puppy.
Having been a member of AIGA Raleigh for a few years now, first as looky-loo, then a volunteer, then the Community and Volunteer Organizer and now as an elected board member, cultivating community has become a passion of mine. I love people, being around them and the conversation and ideas that can spring forth from a pack mentality. The energy that comes from being together to support each other. I knew to make this space work I needed to involve the community in a big way. In fact, this would have never happened without AIGA Raleigh and the Pursuit Fund grant they gave me to learn how to screenprint in the first place. I had to pay that karma back. So in addition to being my design office and a screenprint studio, this will be a creative community watering hole. Stop in, setup shop and work for awhile. Exchange ideas. This will be a teaching shop. I will hold workshops, one-on-one classes. I will hold speaking events, artist showings, open houses, anything I can do to bring the community closer together. This will be the production shop for Old South Supply Company. A new southern lifestyle brand headed up my myself and Mike Jones, owner of Serve Studios and co-founder of Creative South, the premier design conference in the country. I will also produce my own goods as the bolts of inspiration strike me. I am so excited to have an idea, execute it and produce it all in one place and possibly even in the same day! What a concept
I am so excited to be part of the city of Durham. I've been so warmly welcomed and I'm looking forward to becoming part of it’s community. Don’t worry Raleigh. I haven’t left you. I love you and you are part of my heart and soul as well. I’ve got your back.
Up next? Getting the studio ready for primetime!comments powered by Disqus